Student leading group discussion.

Key Definitions

Sexual Violence: Any violence, physical or psychological, carried out through sexual means or by targeting sexuality, gender identity, or gender expression. This includes, but is not limited to sexual assault, sexual harassment, stalking, indecent exposure, voyeurism, degrading sexual imagery, distribution of sexual images or video of a community member without their consent, and cyber harassment or cyber stalking of a sexual nature.

Sexual Assault: Sexual assault is defined as an assault of a sexual nature that violates the sexual integrity of the victim. It is a criminal offence under section 271 of Canada’s Criminal Code. The act of sexual assault does not depend solely on contact with any specific part of the human anatomy but rather the act of a sexual nature that violates the sexual integrity of the victim. Sexual assault is characterized by a broad range of behaviours that involve the use of force, threats, or control towards a person, which makes that person feel uncomfortable, distressed, frightened, threatened, or that is carried out in circumstances in which the person has not freely agreed, consented to, or is incapable of consenting to.

Sexual Harassment: Engaging in a course of vexatious comments or conduct against another person, or in some cases, a single comment or act, on the basis of sex, gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation that is known or ought reasonably to be known as unwelcome. This includes harassment on the basis of sex, gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation that has the effect of creating a poisoned environment (demeaning, intimidating, hostile). Usually present is a pattern of repeated behaviours such as offensive jokes, comments, display of inappropriate materials or stereotyping. Sexual harassment may also have a quid pro quo element (meaning “this for that”), and thus, there may be promises of rewards for complying with sexual solicitations or implied threats or actual effects from not complying with sexual demands. Often present in quid pro quo situations is a power imbalance between the parties involved.

Examples of conduct that constitutes Sexual Harassment include but are not limited to:

  • Sexually suggestive or obscene gestures;
  • Displays of derogatory or offensive sexual material;
  • Sexually degrading words used to describe another person;
  • Derogatory or degrading remarks about or directed towards another person for any reason, including because of being a member of one sex, one sexual orientation, one expression or identity of gender;
  • Sexist, racist, or other jokes that cause or are intended to cause embarrassment;
  • Unwelcome sexual flirtations, advances, or propositions;
  • Unwanted physical contact;
  • “Outing” or threatening to “out” someone;
  • Jokes, cartoons, or remarks about a person’s sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression;
  • Making comments, circulating information or spreading rumours about another person, including about his or her gender, identity or expression, sex, or sexual orientation, including through social media and/or the Internet.

Consent: Under section 273.1 of the Criminal Code, consent is the voluntary agreement to engage in the sexual activity in question. Conduct short of a voluntary agreement to engage in sexual activity does not constitute consent as a matter of law. This means that an individual must actively and willingly give consent to sexual activity. Consent must be informed, freely given, and active. Youths 16 and 17 years old may legally consent to sexual acts but not within a relationship of trust, authority, dependency or where there is other exploitation.

Further, regarding consent, it is imperative to understand that:

  • Silence or non-communication must never be interpreted as cons;
  • A person in a state of diminished judgment cannot consent;
  • A person is incapable of giving consent if they are asleep, unconscious or otherwise unable to communicate;
  • A person who has been threatened, pressured, forced, or coerced (i.e., is not agreeing voluntarily) is not consenting to any sexual act(s);
  • A person who is drugged is unable to consent;
  • A person may be unable to give consent when under the influence of alcohol and/or drug;
  • A person may be unable to give consent if they have a mental disability preventing them from fully understanding the sexual act(s);
  • Consenting to sexual activity in the past or present does not mean consent is given to other sexual activity in the future;
  • A person can withdraw consent at any time;
  • A person cannot give consent to a person in a position of trust, power, or authority over them;
  • Consent cannot be given on behalf of another person;
  • Sexual activity without consent is sexual assault.

Survivor: A person who has experienced an act or threat of Sexual Violence. Survivor is a positive term recognizing the strength needed to live with an experience of Sexual Violence. It is the prerogative of the person who has experienced Sexual Violence to determine how they wish to identify.

Other Relevant Terms

Acquaintance sexual assault: Sexual contact that is forced, manipulated, or coerced by a partner, friend or acquaintance.

Coercion: The use of emotional manipulation, blackmail, threats to family or friends, or the promise of rewards or special treatment, to persuade someone to do something they do not wish to do, such as being sexual or performing particular sexual acts. In the context of Sexual Violence, coercion is unreasonable and persistent pressure for sexual activity.

Confidentiality: Confidentiality is particularly important to those who have disclosed Sexual Violence. If an individual seeks support of any kind, all Brescia staff and/or faculty will protect the confidentiality of all those involved, unless otherwise required by law. When Sexual Violence is disclosed, the confidentiality of all parties must be protected. However, confidentiality cannot be assured in the following circumstances:

  • Where an individual is at imminent risk of self-harm or harming another;
  • Where there are reasonable grounds to believe that others in the Brescia community may be at risk of harm;
  • When promoting fairness of process for all parties involved (e.g., when a report is received by Brescia, the investigation process may necessitate making the identity of the complainant known to the respondent);
  • When notification and/or action (including conducting an investigation) is required by law, by Brescia’s policies, or by an external body with appropriate authority (e.g., when an allegation of Sexual Violence is made against a Brescia employee).

By law, Brescia must report if someone is at risk of harm to themselves or others. In such circumstances, privacy will be maintained to the greatest degree possible and information would be shared only with the necessary parties to the extent necessary to prevent harm. The names of the Survivor and person(s) accused would not be publicly shared.

In some cases Brescia may be required to take action independent of the intentions of the parties. If this is necessary, affected individuals will be fully informed and may choose to be supported at every step of the process.

Confidential Resource: Privileged and confidential resources such as Physicians, Licensed medical professionals (i.e., nurses, counsellors, social workers, psychologists), Priest Chaplain will not report an incident of Sexual Violence without a Survivor’s permission, except for extreme circumstances, such as a health and/or safety emergency to self or others.

Cyber Harassment: Cyber harassment takes many online forms, but typically involves the use of email, texting, instant messaging, derogatory websites, graphic images or posts to bully or otherwise harass an individual or group through personal attacks causing substantial emotional distress and/or the fear of bodily harm. Cyber harassment can include, but is not limited to: ‘flaming’, sending offensive or cruel email, or harassing others by posting comments in chat rooms, blogs, or social networking sites.

Disclosure: The provision of information by a Survivor of, or witness to, an experience of sexual violence.

Drug-facilitated sexual assault: Occurs when alcohol and/or drugs are used to control, overpower, or subdue a target for the purposes of sexual assault. Many substances could be connected with drug-facilitated sexual assault, such as: alcohol, over-the-counter legal drugs, prescription drugs and illegal drugs such as Rohypnol, gamma hydroxybutyric, or ketamine (generally referred to as “date rape drugs”).

Non-Confidential Resource: A support person with whom a Survivor wishes to disclose and who, according to legislative regulations, must report the nature, date, time, and general location of an incident in a disclosure. At minimum, they must report general information without personal identifiers, unless the Survivor consents otherwise. At Brescia, Non-Confidential Resources include all employees (i.e., faculty or staff) who are not a Confidential Resource.

Stalking: A form of criminal harassment prohibited by the Criminal Code. Generally it consists of repeated conduct that is carried out over a period of time and which causes someone to reasonably fear for their safety or the safety of someone else with or without physical injury. Stalking can also include threats of harm to friends and/or family. Stalking behaviours include, but are not limited to, non-consensual communications (face to face, phone, email, social media); threatening or obscene gestures; surveillance; sending unsolicited gifts; “creeping” via social media/cyber-stalking; and uttering threats.